God is Not Fair.
In our culture we have developed the belief that being fair is a good and moral thing. What is done for the greater good to all is better than what is done for one person. When we work hard for things we believe we deserve it more than when people get things for free. We try to please our parents to make sure they are proud of us, subconsciously thinking that they will love us more. We perform for our teachers and coaches to get their approval so that we feel more accepted.
I ended up performing for somebody in most of what I did; dating, working, arts, sports and everything else. When I did well I was rewarded in some way. Our whole culture supports this thinking, especially religion. All religions of the world are usually made up of ways to please their god so he will be good to them and give them what they want. In the west we have generally turned Christianity into the same type of religion. I was raised going to church and was taught early on that if I did certain things God, my parents, and the people at church would be more pleased and accepting of me. I was accepted more If I took time to read my Bible (we called this being in the Word,) and pray (which usually meant just me talking and telling him things) and or course attending church things. If I was baptized, confirmed, took communion, followed the rules, said the right prayers, I would then be loved and accepted. It seemed like the church thought that its job was to instruct me as to what moral behavior was and what it looked like to live that way. They taught me what I was supposed to do and how I was to act and live, all external behavior. From all interaction I had with people in my church it was easy to see that they were much more concerned with modifying my behavior than with the Spirit of God changing my heart. The problem came when I actually read the Bible. Jesus comes along and screwed up all my learning and good theology. Read this scene from the crucifixion of Jesus.
“Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ A sign was fastened above him with these words: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ “One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, ‘So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!’ But the other criminal protested, ‘Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Recorded by Luke Ref Luke 23:32-43
What! What did Jesus say? He for sure got his theology mixed up here. The criminal being put to death next to him just admitted that he deserved to die for his crime. Then Jesus just forgives him and says he is going to be with him in heaven … today! This guy was never baptized, never went to synagogue (church) much, messed up his whole life, didn’t pray or read the Torah (First five books of the Bible) and he for sure didn’t live a moral life or behave in a way to please God. Why would Jesus just let him into paradise? The guy didn’t even say the sinner’s prayer! He didn’t confess all his sins! All he did was acknowledge that Jesus was God and was innocent. That’s all it took! That is really unfair and so arbitrary. Have you ever been offended by God’s grace? Common sense says that if something looks too good to be true it usually is not true. Jesus also messes with my common sense. Grace (meaning giving us something that we don’t deserve) is too good to be true, but it’s TRUE! As hard as that is to believe, as much as it goes against everything I have ever learned as to how the world works … it is unbelievably, outrageously TRUE! Jesus’ grace is given without requiring anything from the criminal. Then Jesus does something else outrageous. He gives me grace, without any strings attached. In fact I usually don’t feel right in accepting it because he doesn’t ask for anything in return. There is no earning it, nothing I can do to get it, pay for it or deserve it. It’s FREE! Not cheap, but free. Jesus paid dearly for it when he had to humble himself, come to earth as a man, risk screwing up and disobeying his Father and paying for it with his life. I don’t think that the physical suffering was the main price, it was the spiritual battle that took place after his death and before his resurrection that was the real price he had to pay. So it is not cheap, but it is totally free! God is just not fair … totally unfair! Jesus seems to always get things backwards from the way I learned them. Shouldn’t I have to be a good Christian boy and achieve something before I get this? At least start changing my behavior a little? His grace, acceptance, and love come first, before I earn it, work for it, perform for it, deserve it or change my behavior for it. Jesus said that all I need is him, and when I open myself to His Spirit he will come in and transform my heart. I won’t have to work at being good; he will naturally produce that in me. (You know, stay connected to the vine and the fruit just grows. (John 15:5) When Jesus transforms my heart I don’t need to try to follow the rules, I just follow my heart and live how His spirit shows me how to live. The Holy Spirit in me leads me into all truth. (John 16:13) Through Jesus I am justified, which means that Jesus makes me look just-as-if-I-never-sinned when I am before God. I am made righteous through Jesus, which means he was righteous for me and I am in him.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead …” (Philippians 3:8-10a)
Who I thought I was, how I looked, my education, my family, my work ethic, everything is worthless. My identity is key: Define myself correctly and I can accept that I am radically loved by God, I am his boy, part of his family. I am a man to men, a warrior to demons and always God’s boy. This is an awesome thought, I wish I said it first but I didn’t. That guy who I can’t pronounce his name said it. “I wish I could say Jesus fully satisfies me. I can’t. Neither can you. What I can say is Jesus fully satisfied God for me.” (in One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian)
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2 NLT
God is not fair – but He is Just.